You may have noticed that there’s a global soccer tournament going on at the moment. Being lithe and athletic (ahem) sport-loving types here at The Crocodile, whenever a major event like this comes along, we usually arrange a sweepstake or fantasy football tournament – or simply gather around a barbecue on our office balcony, drink too much, and forget that we’re actually supposed to be indoors watching the game on TV.

Recently, with this particular soccer tournament fast approaching, the usual wall chart of match fixtures went up in our office. That started us talking about what we could do this time that might be a little bit more exciting. We liked the idea of bringing the familiar football wall chart or sweepstake into the digital arena – purely for a bit of summer soccer fun to share with our friends, colleagues and clients.

Our first attempts at an online sweepstake were promising, if a little un-engaging. A tournament sweepstake by nature limits the participation for most people – after a short while, 90% of the participants are knocked out and no longer interested. We tried a few twists on a fantasy football theme, allocating entrants a national team and a star player, and building a scoring system based upon their performance, but the engagement levels were still a little weak.

Then we stumbled across a wonderful little WordPress plugin that lets users make predictions on each match, and allocates scores based upon the actual results – a little like the football pools for a digital era. The default version was a little basic, but by enhancing it a little with creative and technical development, and adding BuddyPress social technology to get the community element working, we soon had a proof of concept for our “Summer Soccer” game. And then things really took off.

Account Directors started talking to their clients about the game, and interest grew. Clients wanted to use a version of it within their organisations too, or with their own clients. Lionsraw, a charity we work with, wanted to use the game to engage their community of fundraising football fans and promote their ‘30 in 30’ campaign.

Suddenly, the Summer Soccer prediction game became something we had to get built within just a few days. We also had to work out how to keep hundreds of potential participants engaged. We built email invites. We themed each instance of the game to reflect each client’s brand. We connected the databases so we could update the scores for all instances from our own internal version (to save spending hours every day updating all the versions individually). We made it mobile-responsive, so we could easily update the scores from the pub at 1am on a Sunday morning. We put together a series of communications encouraging users to revise their predictions throughout the tournament.

And now Summer Soccer is all ready to kick off – fingers crossed it all goes to plan! If it does, maybe we’ll be back with an even bigger and better version for the League kick-off in August.